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Victims of PCB poisoning want legislation for assistance

2012/04/18 20:36:20

Taipei, April 18 (CNA) A support group of victims poisoned by PCBs through consumption of contaminated rice bran oil more than three decades ago said Wednesday that they will push for legislation to provide relief for the victims.

The Oil Disease Victim Association said at a news conference that currently, the number of registered PCB victims is 1,400, but it estimated that the actual number is far greater.

As many of the victims have no way of getting assistance, the association will solicit the help of legislators to push for legislation for the relief of the victims.

Liao To-ju, president of the association, said the rights of the victims have been ignored and that they have been stigmatized for a long time.

Although the Bureau of Health Promotion under the Department of Health issued an Oil Disease card to them to ensure that they are exempted from certain medical payments and get a free health checkup every year, a lot of medical institutions reject the victims, Liao said, expressing suspicion that that the bureau has not done enough to keep hospitals and clinics informed about what is available to the victims.

Liao, herself a PCB poisoning victim, also gave birth to two children with the same disease.

Taichung City Councilwoman Tsai Ya-ling, one of several councilors who attended the news conference, noted that the bureau had requested that the victims should apply by 2011 to be included on a PCB poisoning list, and should submit evidence to show that they are victims.

Many of the victims do not know that they have to register to get assistance, Tsai said.

She noted that "most of the victims are located in Taichung's Fongyuan and Taya districts, as well as Lukang and Fuhsin in Changhua County."

Meanwhile, actor and director Chen Wen-pin said he wants to speak for the victims.

Chen, who was inspired to offer his help after watching a documentary about the PCB poisoning titled "Oil Disease: Surviving Evil" directed by Tsai Tsung-lung.

Chen said he himself grew up in Lukang and that when he was in elementary school, half of his classmates had the disease and were mocked because of the pimples that the disease caused on their skin. Some of the children even dropped out of school because of the mockery, he said.

Chen noted that a lot of victims are underprivileged laborers with low education, who have passed on the disease to their children and do not know how to obtain relief or medical assistance.

Chen said he was fortunate that he was not a victim, but said he "would like to do something for them."

The tragic PCB poisoning incident first drew public attention in 1979 after the faculty of Hui Ming School for the Blind in Taichung developed black rashes and pimples on their bodies as a result of consuming PCN-contaminated rice bran oil.

(By Chen Ching-ping and Lilian Wu)